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I will be honest with you, not every day is a joy filled day. It’s an erroneous notion that one should live in ecstatic joy all day long and every day. That’s just not how life is meant to work. One of the Buddha’s main teachings is: “Life is suffering.” I didn’t understand that statement when I first heard it. But after many years of attending "Life’s School of Hard Knocks" I recognize the truth behind “Life is Suffering.” When I look at my own life and the lives of the people around me, I see suffering everywhere. And when suffering shows up in one’s own home and heart, it can be overwhelming.
As a coach, I find my clients often encounter overwhelm in their lives. The following is a note I recently wrote to an overwhelmed client:
When life is spinning seemingly out of control,
When our thoughts and emotions are quaking
as though a great wind is blowing through our lives, non stop;
what is important is to slow oneself down inside.
We may not be able to control the world outside ourselves.
But, we can control the world inside ourselves.
Rather than, allowing the world to ravage our soul, consider:
What is important to do right now?
What little corner of the universe can you tend to?
Consider this practice: One breath. One step. Repeat.
One breath. One step. Repeat.
There are actually two pieces of advice I want to highlight here. One of my favorite and latest mantras is:
“Slow it down. Slow it way down.”
What that means for me is this: When I am feeling overwhelm for any reason, when my mind starts racing and leading me down painful paths, when the amount of work in front of me is a large, demanding stack, I start slowing down the energy in my body. I want to feel my body. I want to ground myself. I don’t want to feel the urgent need to do something, anything. I don’t want to follow my mind as it flies off in crazy directions. Slowing down the energies in my body and by focusing on feeling my body, helps me to slow down my mind and allow myself to sort out what is going on within me and outside me. And then I get to make a choice as to what to do next. It can be about taking a nice big breath and considering what is there right in front of me to do right now. What is my next small step? I may still be in overwhelm but by harnessing my awareness into my body, taking a breath and then a next small step, I have some control over myself rather than being controlled by the feeling and circumstances of overwhelm.
And then there is writing in my Joy Journal at the end of the day. No matter what kind of a day I have had, and I have had hard days on my Joy Journey, when I sit down with my journal at the end of the day and ask myself “Where was the joy today,” I always find something to report. I find that joy is sprinkled throughout my days like stars in the nighttime sky even when I am having a bad day. Joy is there, you just have to notice it. Here is an excerpt from my Joy Journal dated April 29.
Where was the Joy today?
Joy was in the brilliant cerise colored sky at evening.
Joy was in hanging my clothes out to dry.
Joy was in the fragrance of the wisteria.
Joy was seeing the setting sun light the top of my neighbor’s pink dogwood tree.
Joy is nature.
I am amazed to discover the simple things that give me joy. Sometimes there are the firework type experiences and sometimes it’s in the simple things. I also find that when I am having a major download of joy in my heart, I take the time to slow down, notice and savor the feeling of joy within me in that moment.
As my friend Arwen Lynch Poe says:
“Seek joy y’all.”
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Coaching is about you, your needs, your growth.
You can learn more about coaching and coaching with me by
signing up for a free Discovery Session.
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🌸 Peace and Love 🌸
Last week, while driving home, I was awed as I viewed the wild blossoming trees that line the road and herald early spring here in the Willamette Valley. Brought to mind was the story of Demeter and Persephone. The trees in their blossoming beauty reflect Demeter's great joy when her daughter Persephone returns to her after living in the underworld with Hades, her husband for the winter months. I share this story with you here.
Demeter, the goddess of grain and agriculture, had a beautiful daughter Persephone whom she loved abundantly. One day, while Persephone was out with her friends gathering flowers, Hades, god of the underworld, saw Persephone and fell in love with her. He devised a way to capture her so swiftly no one had any idea where she had gone to or what had happened to her.
Demeter was sick with worry and immeasurable grief. She searched long and far for her daughter to no avail. Her grief was so great that the crops and plants began to wither and die. A terrible famine gripped the earth. Demeter's husband Zeus became disturbed by this and instructed her to ask Helios the sun god, who sees all that goes on, what had happened. When she learned that Hades had captured her daughter she became very angry and demanded that Zeus get their daughter back.
Zeus commanded Hades to release Persephone. Hades reluctantly agreed. But while Persephone was in the underworld she ate some pomegranate seeds and the law is that if one takes of food in the underworld, one can never leave. So a bargain was struck, Persephone was permitted to return to the surface and her mother for a part of the year but she would have to return to the underworld for part of the year.
When Persephone returns to the surface and her mother Demeter, Demeter is overjoyed and the world bursts into the flowers and fragrances of spring and the fulfillment of summer and harvest. And then, after the harvest, Persephone returns to the underworld as its Queen and again, Demeter goes into mourning and the cold of winter descends once again upon the earth.
To the Greeks, the return of Persephone from the underworld symbolized the return of life in the spring. On the surface, I think this is a lovely way to reflect upon the tides of the seasons. But, I also think the story holds a deeper reflection. It is a story of the call to retreat when our inner life needs tending when healing asks for our attention. A time of personal struggle can feel like a winter, a dark night of the Soul. It can feel like a cold time, a dark time, a time of grief and sorrow. The story also promises us, that our trials and tribulations will pass and we will emerge into life renewed, a flowering within and without, a rebirth.
I ask you, Dear Reader, do you find yourself anywhere within this story? Are you feeling the deep grief of loss? Is something calling to you, nagging you from within, that wants your attention? Are you in the dark night of sorting out some part of yourself? Or do you feel the call of spring in your life? Do you have parts of your life that are flowering, showing new life? Are you in any way emerging, returning to the ever welcoming arms of Life, to live renewed in the world?
Consider reflecting about this within your written journal. And, if you care to share your story with me, I'd love to hear from you.
"There is a time for every season under heaven."
There is a cycle of change marked by four stages that we pass through as we journey and grow through our lives. Change is precipitated by a challenging event in our lives, which can be either sought after or come as a surprise blow. Within this first stage of change we navigate what is known as the Death and Rebirth cycle as something leaves us and we adapt to the new. As we come to some sort of peace or reconciliation about the change in our lives we enter into a time of Dreaming and Scheming where we begin to breath more easily, look ahead and feel a creative flow. After that comes the Heroes Saga, where we put our dreams and schemes, our ideas to the test and roll them out with activity. And as we successfully navigate success in the Heroes Journey we come to a time when we are living in the groove of accomplishment and we experience the joy of a satisfying life.
As a coach, I help people navigate change.
I acknowledge and thank Martha Beck and her staff for teaching "The Cycle of Change" in her coach training. You can read more about it in her book: "Finding Your Own North Star."
Peace and Love,
I want to invite you to join the me on the Joy Journey. I have had such amazing success in increasing my happiness that I want to share that with you. I want you, all of you, to have more happiness and joy in your life. I started on this journey with joy in mid February and I am delighted with the results. By noticing and recording my joy each day, I experience more happiness every day. Joy is something that happens inside us as we respond to the magic and miracles in the world around us.
To partake of the Joy Journey, you will be asked to notice and record the happiness and joy that is sprinkled throughout your day. It’s about making a commitment to finding, discovering, uncovering, noticing, and defining the joy that is everywhere in our lives.
Yeah, you might be feeling grumpy, sad, uninspired but if you let your mind hang out there for too long, those ill desired, dismal states of mind become a habit. They become part of the wiring within in our brains. As a habit, whatever we think repeatedly becomes the “normal” way of hanging out with yourself, the “normal” conversations you have with yourself.
If you desire happiness, you won’t get there by visiting your failures and your sadness repeatedly. Yes, there are times when one must sink into grief and pain. As someone who has been there, I honor and respect the importance of those deep times of intense growth. And, there comes a time to move beyond our suffering and step into the sunshine of joy.
If you are ready to participate in the Joy Journey with me, consider these steps:
The reason for keeping a journal is that by engaging in the act of writing we anchor the experience of joy into our bodies as well as getting super clear about the experience within our mind. This helps deepen the neural pathway. Also, it is fun to be able to read back over our journals and see what has brought us joy and relive the experiences.
When we repeat an action over and over again, we change the neural pathways in our brains and begin to create a new reality for ourselves. We begin to create new habits that support who we want to be and how we want to experience the world.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Success is not an action but a habit.
If you decide to participate in the Joy Journey, please, drop me a line and tell me that you are doing so. I’d love to hear from you and what your experiences are: email@example.com.
I wish for you much joy, now and always!
While reading through my journals recently, I found an entry from a year ago in which I wrote about my overwhelming struggle to understand man's inhumanity to man. How can we do this to ourselves? Back then, I found a parallel entry in which I wrote about how joyful my teacher, Martha Beck, was in a recent, live presentation. I was baffled, how could she be so joyful in the midst of such daily bad news? I found myself reflecting, what would it be like if my mission were to spread joy and magic? At the time, it was no more than an interesting idea. In addition to being absorbed in a negative news cycle, I had challenges in my personal life that required a level of equanimity and balance I had to pressingly strive for daily during the next nine months. Then New Year came around and I was writing to you, Sweet Audience, about finding joy in 2019. After offering that advice to you, I realized that I wanted to find joy in 2019. Finding joy became my word and mission for the year. So here I am to report to you the fruits of my daily labor and findings thus far when it comes to seeking joy.
1. You will be amazed at how much joy there is to be found in life. Every day is filled with many moments of joy both large and small. Joy has lots of flavors. Joy can be an exuberant emotion welling up within the body and heart, a kind of jumping up and down with delight kind of joy. But joy can also be a gentle hum of smiling sweetness or a quiet moment where one can just relax into a simple pleasure. It’s helpful to keep a daily journal / diary to catch the moments of joy that appear throughout the day. At the end of each day I sit down to record my joy moments of the day. Once I started keeping track of the joy in my life, I began to see that every day was filled with not just one but many moments of joy.
2. Joy is magnetic. Once you start noticing joy, you will find yourself finding more joy in your life. You will find that you become a magnet for joy. You will find that happiness spreads throughout you and your day. And sometimes for no apparent reason! One day while standing online for tea and croissant at my favorite coffee shop, I found my whole being radiating joy. Nothing was happening. I was just standing online, waiting for my drink. In that moment I felt like I was a brilliant sun in that coffee shop. Then I sat down at a table to write and had a very good writing session. It was all so simple, so humble and so quietly delightful, spurred on by seemingly nothing at all.
3. I am reading a book about joy as a mindfulness practice. The book is called "Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness" by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander. It’s useful to have support for this year long commitment. The authors have been offering an “Awakening Joy” course for many years and they have much insight in cultivating joy as well as cultivating a mindfulness practice. The two go together well.
Joy is a choice. It’s there if you want it. There is a time and a place for suffering. And, there is a time and a place for joy. What’s your choice? What’s right for you right now?
Smiling at you with Abundant Joy,
This week in the garden it is time for planting, new beginnings. On the left we have baby lettuces, parsley and chives. And on the right, a new daphne odora tucked into a hollow within the filbert trees in my fairy garden. Delight!
🌱 🌱 🌱 🌱 🌱 🌱 🌱 🌱 🌱 🌱
I coach because I am passionate about personal growth. I believe we all inherently yearn to grow. Like the plants in my garden, we are all reaching to grow towards a greater Light. And sometimes, we need a little help because we get stuck; stuck in patterns, behaviors, beliefs.
In this mornings Compass Point, "Martha Beck said: "Stuckness is simply reluctance to take the next small step. Cut your next step in half. Then cut each half in half. Make the next step as small as you can. Then TAKE IT."
You can reach me by clicking on the "Let's Get Started" tab at the top of the page.
I come alive in my journals. They are a home for me. Whether writing or making art, I find myself in my journals. It wasn’t always like that. I spent a lot of my life feeling lost, like an autumn leaf blowing in the wind, down the street, fragile and brittle.
Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of an Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” was an eye opener for me. After reading her book, I felt like I finally had a way to define myself and my place in the world. I believe that I’ve spend most of my life trying to fit in to an extrovert world and its lifestyle, a world that was unnatural for me. I think I would have thrived best as a child if someone plopped me down in a rural environment with blank paper and pens and crayons and let me wander with my imagination.
I've come to define myself as an introvert, an empath and a highly sensitive person (HSP). It’s easy to imagine that my parents, had no way to define these traits and probably thought that all children and humans were alike and had the same needs. My parents had no idea how to talk with me or nurture my somewhat unique needs. And my challenges continued into adulthood. It took me a long time to figure out how to best live in the world, and recognize and develop the skills that would best support me and my personality. I found my way by cultivating self awareness, self knowledge and self love
You might consider if you have any of these traits:
• As an introvert: you find yourself drained when hanging around too long with groups of people. You need time alone to recharge your batteries.
• As an empath: you find yourself feeling the emotions of others. Your boundaries may feel blurred. You don’t know where you end and others begin.
• As an HSP: you might find yourself feeling easily overstimulated in many situations.
If you identify with any of these traits, you might look to the following tools to help ease your way:
• Keep a written journal. Write often, if not daily. Writing is a way for me to know my mind and sort through the challenges I encounter. It keeps me off the "hamster wheel of my mind", where my thoughts keep going round and round trying to solve a problem or some other thing that agitates me.
• Do something creative like art making. Certain art activities like coloring and Zentangles are very calming, meditative, relaxing. Working with large paper and markers or paint can help explore emotions that are hidden (deeply) within.
• Exercise. Walk in nature. Exercise helps discharge pent up energy in the body, energy that you may have picked up and are unable to express. Walking in nature is calming, grounding.
• Hire a coach or a therapist. Over the years, I have sought help and I think of the people who help(ed) me as designated listeners. I need someone to hear me and help me hear myself. They help me sort out my thoughts and feelings and figure out how to navigate in the world.
The quiet, sensitive people in the world have a lot to contribute to the world. They have many gifts to offer; their depth, their insights, their thoughtful thinking processes. Make space for yourself to flourish and grow. Become aware of your inner beauty and find ways to share it in the world that work for you.
Sending you Love ❤️
Since it is the month of February, the month we celebrate Valentines Day, I thought I would focus my writing on the theme of Love. Honestly, it hasn’t been easy. I find Love, as a theme, to be complicated. There are so many kinds of Love; love for partners, parental love, sisterly love, brotherly love, love for friends, love for children, Divine Love, love for self. And let us not forget Romantic Love, for Valentines Day is a celebration of Romantic Love.
Romantic Love with all its excitement is a gateway to real love. Romantic Love is a lovely thread to weave through the journey of real love. And, Romantic Love is only a part of the picture of love. So much of our culture idealizes and focuses on Romantic Love. Why not? It’s a good story line, it usually has a lot of drama. But there is another kind of love which is the day to day love which has other kinds of dramas and requires a completely different set of skills to navigate.
As I set out to understand love, I found it hard to find satisfying definitions.
From the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary love is defined as:
1a(1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties: maternal love for a child
(2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers: After all these years, they are still very much in love.
(3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests: love for his old schoolmates
b : an assurance of affection: give her my love
2 : warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion: love of the sea
3a : the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration: baseball was his first love
b(1) : a beloved person : darling —often used as a term of endearment
(2) British —used as an informal term of address
4a : unselfish loyal and benevolent (see benevolent sense 1a) concern for the good of another: such as
(1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind
(2) : brotherly concern for others
b : a person's adoration of God
5 : a god (such as Cupid or Eros) or personification of love
6 : an amorous episode : love affair
7 : the sexual embrace : copulation
8 : a score of zero (as in tennis)
9 capitalized, Christian Science : god
Does that clear things up for you? Not for me, hardly at all.
Same source, 2nd entry:
1 : to hold dear : cherish
2a : to feel a lover's passion, devotion, or tenderness for
b(1) : caress
(2) : to fondle amorously
(3) : to copulate with
3 : to like or desire actively : take pleasure in: loved to play the violin
4 : to thrive in: the rose loves sunlight
I think that gets a little closer, perhaps because there is some emotion in there.
Here are the synonyms:
Noun: affection, attachment, appreciate, cherish, prize, treasure, value
Verb: attachment, devotedness, devotion, fondness, passion
Words like: affection, attraction, assurance, concern touch upon how I define or describe love but they don’t completely embrace it. Devotedness and devotion come much closer to what I would define as love.
To me, love feels big, transcendent. Love feels like a sacred act or expression. For me, love is bigger than human. And although I use the word often and try to live it in my everyday life, I often stumble over myself in my expression of it. Love feels like something I practice versus something I achieve or accomplish.
When I try to define love, I come up with these words: commitment, kindness, understanding, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, joy, compassion, honesty, enduring. Perhaps these are more like qualities but I find them to best explain what happens in love. When I think of the love I share with my partner, it is a daily practice that engages these qualities. And to partake of this kind of engagement takes awareness. Like other spiritual practices, it is about living in the moment and being present, to my partner’s thoughts, feelings and needs and simultaneously to my own thoughts, feelings and needs.
We are all fragile humans, misfits acting out the painful karma drama of our inner and outer worlds. And through the actions we create or act upon in the name of love, I find the relationships that endure with partners, parents, children and friends are the relationships that forgive, are kind, are willing to move forward no matter what blemishes or thorns that show up. I have learned about love from the people who have forgiven me.
In Kahlil Gibran’s essay about Love, he is referring to Transcendent Love. In writing about Marriage, Kahlil Gibran gets much closer to what I will call for this essay, human love. Within his essay on Marriage he says:
“… make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”
I love those words. I think they describes how to keep love alive, well and healthy. We can’t box it, we can’t control it, we can’t compartmentalize it. To make it small or narrow in any way is to deaden it. Like life, love is flow. Love is grace. To experience it, we open to it and let it touch us from within and without. We participate in it by being committed, kind, understanding, patient, forgiving, compassionate, honest, and enduring.
I do hope you will give yourself the opportunity to grow love in your life. It isn’t always easy but it is always kind. And when we open our heart to love, we grow, like a flower in the summer sun, beautiful and warm and full of color and the vibrancy of life.
Happy Valentines Day!
Soon it will be Valentine's Day. I hope you will do something super sweet for yourself. It's
okay to buy yourself flowers or candy or gift yourself with a massage. Make it nice for you.
You deserve it, even if you have a sweetie in your life.
Life is short.
Learn to Be in Love.
Learn to live in Love.
Learn about love.
Learn to give love.
Learn to receive love.
Love is the answer.
Let your love grow.
Love is gracious.
Love is kind.
And love has boundaries.
Sending Love ❤️
I'd like to share with you a little of my back story as an artist. I am a self taught photo realistic portrait artist. There is a lot of technical craft in that and I am proud of what I accomplished. As I worked doing these gorgeous portraits, the drawings in my sketch book looked like that of a small child. I found it confusing and disturbing. I didn't feel like I was a "real" artist. So after many years of angst about this, I decided to turn aside from my portrait work and explore the expression of art making, mark making that was showing up in my sketchbooks. I wanted to explore more deeply who I was as an artist and discover my unique artistic voice. That meant showing up to the page with no expectations and allowing myself to express myself free of judgement. It wasn't easy and I have been at it for years.
One of my favorite things to do in recent years has been to draw three pages in my sketchbook before I go to bed. I show up to an 11x14 sketchbook with markers, my favorite tool to work with the unconscious, and allow myself to draw whatever wants to speak from within me. I have drawn pictures that reflect my anxiety about the world, emotions around my personal life and more. Often I draw very sad looking creatures and sometimes stick figures. Drawing like this is a path to the core of my inner life. It helps me unload stress. It creates ease within me. In the end I have these amazing sketchbooks.
I think of drawing from the unconscious as stepping up to the art pad without a plan. It's about just showing up and allowing that which is below the conscious level of the mind to surface. I don't know what I am about to express. I'm not trying to make fine art. Sometimes I don't even understand what has shown up. Sometimes I will explore a picture more deeply by writing about it but most of the time, I am content to leave it wordless and just let it work on me in whatever way it does. I have deep satisfaction in simply expressing that which in many ways is beyond words.
If this is something that interests you, please feel free to contact me and lets start up a conversation.
I look to nature to find my lessons on how to grow. Presently in nature, we are in a liminal place, a place in between two other places. We are in between the Yuletide and the season of Imbolc which marks the beginning of Spring. We are talking very early Spring here. Imbolc is usually marked by catkins and blooming snowdrops. This is a fertile time for many of us, a time to dream a new seed into our future.
“We are not going in circles. We are going upwards.
The path is a spiral. We have already climbed many steps.”
- Hermann Hesse
I like to honor the dreaming time. Dreaming, goal setting is a process to be valued, not to be cheated upon by moving through it too quickly or carelessly. It’s important to take time to examine your dreams, to research them, both outwardly in terms of practical application but also inwardly. How does your dream measure against your own inner compass? How does it measure against your values? Does your vision bring you joy? If it doesn’t bring you joy, you will be more likely to abandon it. It will feel hard to stay motivated. If you can find joy in thinking about it, you will more likely pursue it. With joy, even when things get hard, you keep going because it has meaning and passion for you. You really want to achieve your desired result. Joy is like a fire in the burner of your heart that keeps you going.
“I’m working my happiness like a full time job.”
- Gabrielle Bernstein
What if, for the entire year of 2019, you pursued Joy? What if you started noticing where you find joy each day? And what if seeking and finding joy was enough? What would happen if you collected a little treasure box of joy in your heart? And every day you kept adding to it? You might find yourself smiling incessantly. People might start wanting to hang out with you because you are so happy. You might find that you are less stressed out. You might find that suddenly, questions about your life are being answered because you are spending more time with joy and joy IS the answer.
“When we are centered in our joy
we attain our wisdom.”
- Marianne Williamson
I will leave you with the charming words of my friend and tarot reader Arwen Lynch Poe:
"Seek Joy, y'all."
The Yuletide holiday is filled with joy; the joy of shopping, homemade cookies, parties, trees, lights and gifts. There is a lot of joy to entertain. And where is the comfort? Do you even seek comfort? I’m a big fan of comfort and I pursue this holiday as quietly, as minimally as I can. I look for something different in this holiday. I look for the quiet.
Recently, I was sitting on the red couch in my kitchen daydreaming, as I stared out the large windows into our backyard. Our backyard is full of garden spaces and those spaces are currently full of leaves to keep the beds warm and fed with rotting compost before the next growing season. But what caught my eye this day was the filbert tree. There it stands, on the edge of one of the beds, barren of leaves in the cold, gray winter. And I got it. I understood the lesson I heard often in my seasonal courses. Winter is the time when the energy of nature is drawn within. I could see how the tree was drawing energy into its sap, into its roots. I find that meaningful. This is nature’s time of quiet and calm, of nurturing its essence so that it will be ready for the hysterical fullness of spring, summer and harvest. The tree has lots of work to do ahead in the seasons to come. But right now it works at nurturing essence, sap, roots. I want to approach this time of year more like the filbert tree. I want to nurture my essence, create rest and comfort, so that I can be ready for the fullness of summer and harvest as it shows up in my life, business, creativity, household, etc.
The word Comfort means:
Comfort is an important word for me, an important strategy I bring to my coaching clients. It is easier to bring about change in life when one is feeling grounded, centered in one’s body, and at comfort with one’s self. Knowing how to provide comfort for one's self is an important skill no matter what time of year it is. And, it is at this time of year that we can learn from nature.
I wonder if you crave comfort in the holiday season as the song invites?
Do you need time out from shopping and merry making?
For my health and well being, I have made a commitment this season to get out and walk in the fresh air and the neighborhood at least once a day and in the morning. But I also, have made a commitment to explore a path in the forest once a week. Nature is my chapel. Nature provides me with comfort, deep comfort, Soul comfort.
I invite you this Holiday Season, to notice if you need to take time out for yourself, to provide yourself with some sweet comfort of life that will nurture your spirit, your essence, your Soul. What does that look like for you? Providing yourself with comfort and rest will fortify you so you may rally on in this holiday season and beyond that, into and through the New Year.
Happy Holy Days!